Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 10, 2013

Syria: Recent Developments

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the head of Al Qaida in Iraq, announced yesterday that his organization and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria are one and the same. He also confirmed that his organization was involved in the uprising from the very beginning just like the Syrian government has claimed:
According to the Al Qaeda leader, there were already jihadist cells in Syria before the conflict erupted. These cells were “awaiting the chance” to expand their operations and when the civil war started Abu Muhammad Al-Julani was dispatched along with other Iraqi jihadists to establish al-Nusra and to set strategy. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been splitting its funds with al-Nusra, he says.
Al-Baghdadi's announcement was a surprise for the head of Jabhat al-Nusra:
The head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front on Wednesday pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri in an audio message, but distanced his group from claims it had merged with Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"The sons of Al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri," Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in the recording.

But, he added, "we were not consulted" on an announcement on Tuesday of a merger of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Al-Nusra Front.

That little spat is about the marketing name of the organization will not make any difference in the U.S. plan to intensify the conflict:
To try to counter the rising influence of Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamic extremists in the civil war, the U.S. and its allies have boosted their support for rebel factions deemed to be more moderate.
As McClatchy provided that this idea is not working. Weapons that are supposed to go only to U.S. vetted "secular" groups have been seen in the hands of Jihadi groups that fight along with them.

These new weapons are not decisive. They only intensify the fight and will lead to more destruction. Instead of an announced attack by the foreign supported insurgents on Damascus the recent weeks have seen a counteroffensive by the Syrian government that cleared much of the Damascus countryside:

The major development, however, took place in the eastern Ghouta, where the Syrian army came to the aid of a battalion that had been under siege for weeks. The offensive was launched in the vicinity of the Damascus International Airport, and has effectively severed the opposition’s supply routes. Scores were killed or injured in the fighting, according to Syrian officials.

For their part, Syrian opposition sources confirmed that the eastern Ghouta is practically under siege, and spoke about preparations underway to fend off army attacks

Official sources asserted that the above developments are proof that the regular army has fully regained the initiative. Other informed sources claimed that the army has greatly improved its intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance operations, and infiltrated the armed rebel groups.

In east Syria first clashes between "secular" fighters and the Jihadists have occurred. Some of the original civil protesters have noticed that an end of the Syrian government would not bring an end to the fighting but rather intensify it:
Manna noted that army defections were decreasing, amid growing fears on the part of minorities due to the militancy and the “Islamization” of the opposition, a reference to the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Manna said in response to a question: “I am convinced that the departure of President Bashar al-Assad would not spell the end of violence in Syria,” pointing out that “his violent overthrow will only lead to further violence.”

Syrian insurgents also recognize that they will have to fight the foreign Jihadis who are currently helping them.

The may also have to fight militia that Israel is supports in the northern Golan heights:

Israeli military personnel are operating in non-combat capacity in an area across Israel's border with Syria, GlobalPost has learned.
This indicates a much higher level of activity by Israel in rebel-held lands than has previously been acknowledged. It also is a sign that Israel is willing to put some of its own personnel in significant peril in order to retain some semblance of order at the national boundary line.
Should the Syrian government fall Israel will try to use those militia, likely Druze, to create a "buffer zone" which in effect means that it will steal more Arab land.

A UN panel found that weapons from Libya have spread to more than a dozen countries including Syria. Imagine what would happen when Syria would break down and its heavy weapon depots were open for sale.

Posted by b on April 10, 2013 at 13:07 UTC | Permalink


It appears that for the U.S. -- Instability 'R Us -- everything is going according to plan.
What's not to like?
They have: destruction of an Iran ally, more jihadists with weapons potentially in more countries, more need for US military forces (both operational and special), more need for U.S. world leadership, more congressional calls for military interventions -- and best of all, more profits for the Military-Industrial Complex.
The adults in the room, Russia and China, who call for non-interference and non-support of terrorists, and call for the use of diplomacy, continue to lose out to "the world community" -- US, UK, France -- and that also is a victory for the West. Actually it's too late now for diplomacy. Let people suffer, they say in effect.
The only ray of hope is a changed strategic situation for Israel.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 10 2013 15:44 utc | 1

Is the BBC hiding the fact that its reporters had been kidnapped by Syrian insurgents?

Alex Thomson: Syrian security situation: worse than we are being told?

The rebels’ attrition against journalists and journalism is an important part of their war. It amounts to strategy in its consistency. Yet all too often because of “security concerns”, the western media simply self-censors this out of existence.

Few people in the UK will be aware the a very prominent British journalist and his team have only recently emerged from the terrifying experience of becoming kidnap victims in rebel hands. That story has still not appeared in any media in the UK because a “news blackout” was declared in order to facilitate their release. Few would – or should – have any qualms with that degree of self-censorship.

However, their organisation – a very major force in the British media – has chosen to say nothing about the issue since. The public are entirely unaware this has happened.

In doing so they – and we by extension – have effectively muzzled ourselves and not told an important part of the Syrian war story – a nasty, dark and highly relevant dimension to the the rebel campaign there. The great Syrian question is all about what kind of freedoms people are fighting for. That’s why this issue matters so much.

Somewhat funny - AQ in North Africa is blaming Jabhat al-Nusra for attracting their Jihadis which are urgently needed in North Africa. They blame the French of organizing the Jihadi transfer to Syria.
(That is certainly a plausible theory)

Posted by: b | Apr 10 2013 16:10 utc | 2

'Is the BBC hiding the fact that its reporters had been kidnapped by Syrian insurgents?'

They are figuring out a way to blame Assad.

Posted by: dh | Apr 10 2013 16:37 utc | 3


I was just in the process of posting that too. I can't find any information detailing who this individual was, but I might suggest that it was Ian Pannell at the BBC, whose reports and twitter posts dried up at the end of March.
He would regularly accompany 'rebels' on missions to kill Syrian troops. And he and the BBC would certainly not want this incident to undermine their efforts to portray the opposition positively, and whose awfully biased reporting has now been nominated for a BAFTA..

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Apr 10 2013 16:46 utc | 4

@ B

Somewhat funny - AQ in North Africa is blaming Jabhat al-Nusra for attracting their Jihadis which are urgently needed in North Africa.

This reminded me of a piece I read yesterday on Tunisia exporting Jihadists to Syria.

Tunisian families have begun to dread knocks on their doors, or late-night phone calls, fearing that the messenger will bear the news that their son has been smuggled out of the country to join the “jihad” in Syria. Families here told IPS that they have no way of contacting their sons once they leave — whether by choice or coercion they will never know — for the warring nation nearly 3,000 miles away. At most, family members receive an inaudible telephone call from Libya, where the soon-to-be militants are trained, the muffled voice on the other end of the line saying a quiet and final goodbye.

After that point, no news is good news. If they are contacted again, it will only be an anonymous caller announcing the death of a son, brother or husband, adding that the family should be proud of their martyred loved one. The next day, the family might find a CD, slipped under the door, containing filmed footage of the burial.

On Mar. 29, local sources reported that between 6,000 and 10,000 men have left the country, while the Algerian press say the number could be closer to 12,000. Most families who spoke to IPS were too afraid to give their names, fearing reprisals. They suspect powerful and wealthy interests have a hand in the smuggling of fighters, since some families have received as much as 4,000 dollars in “payment” for each jihadi recruit.

10,000 to 12,000 is a huge number of fighters just for Tunisia. A few months ago I posted a similar link about Yemen, claiming 4,000 young men had been flown to Turkey in a 3 month period. No idea how much foreign fighters are in Syria but it must be tens of thousands based on these 2 small countries alone.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Apr 10 2013 17:23 utc | 5

@ Colm O' Toole

SyrPer thinks about 50,000-100,000 of terrorists are in Syria, mostly foreign. Just in Lebanon another 20,000+ are in camps near the border, which were bombed twice by the Syria so far. Also it seems Syria is getting much better at intercepting new groups entering from Lebanon, SyrPer reports high count of dead rodents there on daily basis.

Add terrorists count in Turkey (should be more than in Lebanon), Iraq, Jordan, Libya and even Israel, and totals could be well over 200,000. Dead terrorists should also be 50,000+ after two years. No wonder army cant exterminate them so easily, new jihadists are coming everyday, armed to the teeth and not afraid to die. Nasty combination.

In comparison, whole NATO couldnt defeat the same jihadists in Afghanistan for over a decade, and Taliban fighters number is much smaller there, 30,000 or so. Plus Taliban isnt provided with NATO weapons and intelligence.

Posted by: Harry | Apr 10 2013 17:58 utc | 6

The U.S. has leaned on the "Free Syrian Army" regarding al-Nusrah. Probably the US said: "Remember, guys, no sharing of weapons that we provide, at least on camera."

Mar 30, 2013: "They are our brothers in Islam. It is not our fault that Sunnis are fighting against the regime. We have offered martyrs and other things . . .The Al Nusrah Front has proved that it is proficient in fighting and has treated the people very nicely."

Apr 10, 2013: “There has never been and there will never be a decision at the command level to coordinate with Nusra. The situation on the ground is what has imposed this,” he said in a separate interview . . .adding that coordination with Nusra was “tactical and time-limited. ... The Nusra Front is not attached to the FSA.”

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 10 2013 18:22 utc | 7

6) I would not be so sure about the Taliban not having NATO weapons.

Posted by: somebody | Apr 10 2013 18:30 utc | 8

@8 somebody

Some weapons will always trickle through (from US trained Afghan militia, or dead NATO soldiers), but quantity is insignificant compared to direct NATO supplies to terrorists in Syria. We are talking about thousands of tons (likely over 10,000 tons by now) of weapons, and much heavier than what Taliban has.

If Assad wouldnt have had support of Syria's majority, he would be long gone by now.

Posted by: Harry | Apr 10 2013 18:55 utc | 9

In RFI ( Race for Iran , now Going to Tehran ) , one commentator linked to this site :

Truly disgusting from my point of view.

It remains to be seen how official US cretins get out of this mess , in my opinion a matter of impossibility.

Posted by: Tehran | Apr 10 2013 19:25 utc | 10

French way of presenting this news :

To make it short : Al Nusrah front, a very young and dynamic opponent group, pledges allegiance to AQ in exchange of financial support. It's presented as a new fact. According to Le Monde, Al Nusrah *will* get support from AQ from now.

Posted by: Rhysa | Apr 10 2013 20:27 utc | 11

Private Note to "b" --

A request:

i trust you will not publish this:

I much admire your skill, and ability. I consider you on a par with the best of the journalists i have read (Palast, Chomsky, Scahill, Hersh, etc).

I understand that you do something very different than Scahill, Hersh, Taibbi, et al do. They're primary journalism (like basic science), and your work operates as an adjunct, to them. Your work shines in analysis.

I would like to help. I have been a faithful reader of your work for most of the time you have been publishing.

I am a competent analyst, and a good writer. With the proper instruction, i think i might become a powerful voice speaking on behalf of peace, and prosperity.

I am assiduously devoted to Humanity.

My problem is, i don't know how to get started. I would love to maintain a blog, i would love to contribute works that support and augment yours -- or add to the body of analysis in significant ways - but even with an open schedule with no commitments, i would have no idea where to start.

I'm intimidated, and sadly constrained by my environment. I want to learn.

If you could help, and offer concrete advice, i would be eternally grateful.

Posted by: China_Hand-2 | Apr 10 2013 20:32 utc | 12

9) Don't see the tons of weapons, don't see that many committed fighters either. Just see communities skillfully set against each other, terrorist acts against civilians, civilians used as human shields and an attempt to bring the country to its knees economically.
It is obvious Al Nusrah is not supported to fight for a win as in form a new government. It is supported to destabilize like a card in a game of cards.

Posted by: somebody | Apr 10 2013 21:17 utc | 13

yeah . . . the list of things that you somehow do not see grows longer and longer by the minute.

Don't worry, we're all already well aware of your obvious deliberate blind-spots

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 10 2013 21:29 utc | 14

Shipping death and destruction to Syria

Because they are cheap, accessible, durable, and lightweight, small arms have been a primary factor in the transformation of warfare from a series of relatively well- defined battles between ‘two opposing forces wearing uniforms’ to a much more volatile, anarchic form of violence,” says Hartung, now director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington DC. "More often than not, today’s wars are multisided affairs in which militias, gangs, and self-anointed “rebels” engage in campaigns of calculated terror, civilian targets are fair game, and the laws of war are routinely ignored."

“The ready availability of small arms makes these conflicts far more likely to occur, far more deadly once they start, and far more difficult to resolve once the death tolls mount and the urge for revenge takes hold.”

Posted by: somebody | Apr 10 2013 22:44 utc | 15

The end goal remains the same: the degradation of the Syrian military by foreign military intervention, in order to enable Israel to attack Hizballah in Lebanon - both assaults for the purpose of removing Syrian and Hizballah missile arsenals as effective actors in the upcoming Iran war.

This has been the plan all along since the Libyan intervention gave Israel the solution to their 2006 Hizballah failure.

The exact timing of the US/NATO/Israel/Turkey military intervention in Syria - and subsequent Israel attack on Lebanon - cannot be predicted with precision, but a best guess is sometime this year.

Once that is resolved to whatever degree possible, then the final push to the Iran war will occur, probably in 2014-2015. That will likely start with an effort to impose a naval blockade on Iran, once it is clear that sanctions are not working and there is no possibility of a diplomatic resolution (and there isn't since the goal is war, not resolution.)

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Apr 10 2013 23:02 utc | 16

William Hartungs paper is well worth a read beyond the quotes

And there is troubling evidence to suggest that in many of the world ’s most intractable conflicts, wag ing war has become a way of life — a way to generate income, a way to exert political power, and a way to provide “employment” to young people, many no more than children, who have little prospect of securing a decent education or a steady job.

This trend toward global “warlordism” is an incendiary mixture of feudalism and turbo-charged twenty-first-century capitalism. Unless we find a way to curb this new form of warfare, the fragile progress that has been achieved in the past century in promoting democracy and human rights and expanding educational and economic opportunities for a significant share of the world’s population could go up in flames, not in an all-consuming nuclear confrontation—as was feared during the Cold War — but through the systematic proliferation of “small wars.”

Current Liberian President Charles Taylor is a prototype of the new-wave warrior. As Jeffrey Boutwell and Michael Klare have pointed out, Taylor ’s rise to power began on Christmas eve, 1989, when he invaded Liberia with “100 irre gular soldiers armed primarily with AK-47 rifles.” They further note that “within
months, he had seized mineral and timber resources and used the profits to purchase additional light weapons.
In essence, Taylor stumbled upon a new post–Cold War model of “rebellion” a form of irregular warfare that can be sustained without a big-power patron and frequently without the support of the majority of the people in the target nation. As Commany Wesseh, a Liberian democracy activist who recently fled the country after an attempt was made on his life, observed at a January 2001 forum at the United Nations, wars in Africa used to be fought over ideas, but now adversaries, more often than not, are bandits and criminal gangs posing as rebels.

This pattern of “war as plunder” has been repeated with local variations in Sierra Leone, where the Liberian-backed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has used diamond sales to fuel its campaign of terror; in Colombia, where government forces, right-wing paramilitaries, and anti-government rebels have all skimmed off profits,
fees, and bribes from the coca trade; in Angola, where Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA rebel forces have raised billions of dollars through diamond sales and the Angolan government has countered by stocking its arsenal with revenues drawn from its large offshore oil deposits; and, last but not least, in the DRC ...

Posted by: somebody | Apr 10 2013 23:07 utc | 17

@ Harry 6

SyrPer thinks about 50,000-100,000 of terrorists are in Syria, mostly foreign.

Yeah think this would be a ballpark figure.

In Aug 2012 Riad Assad, the FSA commander (who lost his leg recently), said he had 100,000 men 20,000 of whom were deserters from the Syrian Army. Thought it was propaganda at the time, but would probably be a fair estimate. However since he made that statement alot of reports of soldiers leaving as the rebellion became more Jihadist. Add into that the heavy losses of the last 9 months and it could be around 70,000.

Of course this is all guesswork. Would love to see some Russian "behind the scenes" estimates. They seem to be closer than anyone to the Assad government. Would imagine they have a more accurate picture on the ground than anyone.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Apr 10 2013 23:25 utc | 18

"and anti-government rebels have all skimmed off profits,
fees, and bribes from the coca trade"

Yeah, they should apply for a NED grant.

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 10 2013 23:31 utc | 19

Riveting post. Thanks, both b and commenters.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 11 2013 1:51 utc | 20

@all - those huge numbers of terrorists in Syria can not be right. There simple isn't the action that such a big number of fighters would produce. Also no formation in the videos is bigger than 100 or so. Many are much smaller.

My best guestimate is still some 30,000 total of which up to some 10,000 may be foreigners

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 13:18 utc | 21


I do not, in general, review comments before they are published. Only those that land in the spam queue may get a preview. You can contact me via email. The address is on the About page of this blog reachable from its homepage.

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 13:20 utc | 22

"The head of Syria's jihadist Al-Nusra Front on Wednesday pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri in an audio message, but distanced his group from claims it had merged with Al-Qaeda in Iraq."

The most effective terrorist group in Syria has openly pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri.
Yet, Obama and Kerry still say Assad must go as they continue to support the crazy jihadists.

How can anyone still doubt that AlQaeda = AlC.I.A.DA = AlMossada

Posted by: HIlmi Hakim | Apr 11 2013 14:02 utc | 23

Ever wonder why the US is interested in Syria? Here's Chompsky's detailed explanation on US
foreign policy around the globe. Chompsky's part is 41min.

Posted by: ben | Apr 11 2013 14:51 utc | 24

Chomsky on Syria? Let me guess what Noam has to say:

1) The USA is pursuing its colonial interests for the sake of multi-national corporations.

2)Israel was not mentioned at all, since it is only a tool of US interests similar to Columbia.

What a clown that man is. Still many of you think he is a saint.

Posted by: HIlmi Hakim | Apr 11 2013 15:52 utc | 25

On reading the hypothesized nos. of ‘foreign fighters aka terrorists’ in Syria I was most surprised, e.g.:

SyrPer thinks about 50,000-100,000 of terrorists are in Syria, mostly foreign.

Syria had say 22 million ppl, it has a largish and varied territory - 100 K in comparison is tremendous.

The ‘fighters’ go there to fight. They are not a reserve army, organized with a strategy of replacement. Some naturally may be holed up and inactive, one can’t know, but even that is somewhat doubtful. However, they are not hanging about in hotels in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, watching TV and being bored, that is for sure.

I remember Kosovo from here, and the hugely inflated nos. of foreign fighters, 10x, 100x, anything, hysteria.

Young men have been ‘going missing’ from the Maghreb since the Arab Spring. Not many will be in Syria. Imho. Jihad / fighting has become an excuse that families use because it garners attention...

Even 30,000 fighters is staggeringly huge and beyond belief! Imagine a sports stadium filled with 10,000 young men (I know many stadiums have a far larger capacity), and then triple that, and let them the chaotic battlefield that Syria has become.

The latest report on Europeans joining (only part of the story of course), but the numbers are on a completely different scale.

The official, quote unquote, no. of killed also does not support a mass of tens of thousands of foreignors.

- b @ 21 makes a similar point i see

Posted by: Noirette | Apr 11 2013 16:14 utc | 26

McClatchy's David Anders was kidnapped by Nusra fighters. His report: Nusra Front members in Syria have never masked al Qaida ties

On Wednesday, the al Qaida connection was completed when the head of Nusra pledged allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, the man who replaced Osama bin Laden at the top of the terrorist group.

The chain of events comes at a time when the Saudi, Qatari, Turkish and Jordanian governments, with support from the U.S., have increased weapons shipments to the rebels. Those weapons have also reached Nusra, which also is getting a steady flow of non-Syrians across the Turkish border to fight. Turkey has made no steps to stop that traffic.

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 17:14 utc | 27

What's the story with the Kurds in Syria? Is Turkey trying to export some of their 'Kurdish problem' to Syria? That could be yet another dimension along which this whole shameful 'NATO' debacle unleashes 'unexpected' consequences.

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 11 2013 21:09 utc | 28

Hilmi #25. As some one who often questions Chompsky's political judgement I will have to say that your description of him as "clownish" makes you look like the clown.

Chompsky has earned the respect of progressives throughout the world, even if some of his global perspectives do, on occasion, seem naive.

Posted by: ToivoS | Apr 11 2013 23:25 utc | 29

@25 I listened to the Chomsky presentation, it is a rather straightforward even realist take on how states conduct their affairs. He backs up his views on specifics events with facts and his analysis of the pattern of foreign policy is spot on. I am not sure what you found "clownish" about the talk.

ToivoS has a sensible take.

Posted by: thirsty | Apr 12 2013 1:25 utc | 30

The U.S. now refers to the Texan Ghassan Hitto as "Prime Minister Hitto." The FSA has a different view.

from yesterday's State briefing:

QUESTION: The FSA is criticizing Ghassan Hitto, the Syrian Prime Minister, and they said that they won’t support or protect him in the Syrian territories where the FSA is. How do you view these statements?

MR. VENTRELL: I haven’t seen the statement you’re referring to. Prime Minister Hitto is somebody that we’ve worked well with in the past, and I believe there have been positive statements about him made by the FSA. So I’m not sure who this particular individual is you’re referring to who may or may not have said something negative, but what we’ve seen are positive statements from FSA leadership in the past.

But President Assad is believed not to know that there is no organized opposition in Syria. So the flip-flopper is operating on that mistaken premise.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, just to say that, as you know, the Secretary is in London today, Michel, where he’s meeting today and tomorrow with key partners and members of the Syrian opposition to further explore ways in which the international community can have a stronger impact on changing Assad’s calculations.

Imagine that -- Kerry is trying to change Assad's calculations? (Like he'll change Iran's 'ambitions.') These people truly live in a fantasy world.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 2:51 utc | 31

@HIlmi Hakim

Yeah, Chomsky NEVER criticizes Israel...

Noam Chomsky - US Israeli Crimes Against Palestine

Professor Noam Chomsky, delivering the 2013 Edward W Said Lecture: Violence and Dignity -- Reflections on the Middle East

Noam Chomsky: Israel and Palestine

Noam Chomsky on Palestine & Israel

Posted by: guest | Apr 12 2013 3:37 utc | 32

A Washington Post article recently pushed the idea of "buffer zone(s)" in Syria. This is a replay of the "no-fly zone" that moved Libya into total chaos, as it was applied to much of that country. These "buffer zones" seem to be a current objective of the US training teams in Jordan.

WaPo, Apr 2

AMMAN, Jordan — The United States and Jordan have stepped up training of Syrian opposition forces that may be used to establish a buffer zone along Syria’s southern border, according to U.S. and Jordanian officials.

Training begun last year has been expanded and accelerated after rebel gains in the south, including capture of a stretch of the Jordanian-Syrian border near the Golan Heights, two military outposts and the country’s main border crossing with Jordan.

Look at an image and see how meaningless these "buffer zones" are, or would be. Pitiful. (Key Ctrl/+ to enlarge.)

UPI claimed the training "of about 3,000 Free Syrian Army officers" would be completed this month.

AMMAN, Jordan, April 3 (UPI) -- Washington and Amman accelerated training of Syrian rebel forces who might create a buffer zone along Syria's southern border, U.S. and Jordanian officials say.

The training of about 3,000 Free Syrian Army officers, which began at a Jordanian military base last year, has been stepped up and expanded after rebel gains in southern Syria, the officials told The Washington Post.

Instead of completing the training in June, it will be completed this month, in light of the victories, including along the Syrian-Jordanian border near the Golan Heights, two military outposts and the country's main border crossing with Jordan, Jordanian security officials told the newspaper.

Three thousand trained officers?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 3:43 utc | 33

According to Ambassador Ford, in an advance copy of testimony obtained by Josh Rogin, it is President Assad's fault that the US and its Gulf Coast allies, together with Turkey, are supporting jihadists in Syria.

The Cable, Apr 11

Ford: "The Assad regime has created an environment that fuels the growth of extremism, and al-Qaeda linked groups are working to exploit the situation for their own benefit. There is a real competition now between extremists and moderates in Syria and we need to weigh in on behalf of those who promote freedom and tolerance."

Rogin goes on:
Ford will testify that the Syrian opposition must chart a path of inclusiveness and pluralism when designing the new shape of the future Syrian state, assuring minority groups that were favored by the regime that they will be safe in Syria after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 4:02 utc | 34

What's this anti-Shiite mood in Egypt about? Is it just to push the schism further and empower Al Qaeda in Egypt?

Posted by: guest | Apr 12 2013 5:17 utc | 35

The Chomskyites have spoken.

I see Lord Noam has many nice "progressive" followers here.

Posted by: HIlmi Hakim | Apr 12 2013 11:48 utc | 36

@28 The situation is confusing. If my memory is correct, the government removed most of its forces from Kurdish areas, things were quiet for a while, then there were some press stories about how Kurds had sided with the rebels, which doesn't seem to be true, and now it's claimed that al nusra is control in Kurdish areas, with the Kurds mostly not participating in any fighting. I imagine they are under tremendous pressure from Turkey/USA/the Iraqi kurdish demi-state to not interfere with the rebels.

Posted by: Crest | Apr 12 2013 12:10 utc | 37


I'm sure sure many of the 'militant' units will click their heels and smartly whenever any of these guys get driven past them. Perhaps their role is appear on western news cameras looking smart handsome and moderate at FSA HQ.

Posted by: heath | Apr 12 2013 12:18 utc | 38

Beacuse you people have been so very nice to me, and banned BOT TAK and Dan'l Rich when they weren't nice to me, I will give you some good advice, gratis.
Whatever you do, do not, I repeat: DO NOT idly pluck Schlesinger's "Imperial Presidency" out of the bookshelf to read with your first cup coffee on April 12, 2013. I can just about warrant it'll ruin your day. Oh, we were so innocent in our outrage then. Schclesinger is all famischt because, if this keeps up, we'll have murder's on the President's say-so.

Posted by: Mooser | Apr 12 2013 15:52 utc | 39

"I see Lord Noam has many nice "progressive" followers here."

ALL HAIL LORD NOAM!!! Okay, now you say it. And godammit, kneel while you do. On your knees, fool! Genuflect to Lord Noam, or consider a heretics death! Just remember, we fix watches, we have ways of making you tock!

Posted by: Mooser | Apr 12 2013 15:56 utc | 40

@36 you have not given any specifics while those opposing your claim have given specific examples to contradict you. And you broad attacks can hardly be called wise. No show of ilm or hikmat. With a handle like YOU chose one would expect better behavior.

Posted by: Khalid Shah | Apr 12 2013 16:26 utc | 41

@36 Since you provide no argument I just have to assume you're the kind who never trusts, say, an Italian, even when they criticize (or especially when they criticize, those sneaky, plotting Italians...) Berlusconi.

Posted by: guest | Apr 13 2013 0:00 utc | 42

On How to Make Bashar Cry Uncle (Sam): Treasury reports at length on how the Obama Administration has further tightened the financial screws on Syria that had been set up during the Bush administration.

Even in the midst of a devastating civil war, U.S. and international sanctions are having a significant impact on the Assad regime’s ability to access the international financial system and raise critical foreign currency revenue. The EU previously accounted for more than 90 percent of Syria’s crude exports. Thus the EU actions blocking the purchase of Syrian-origin petroleum products and banning new investment in the Syrian petroleum industry have had a massive impact on the regime’s revenue stream. By targeting the Commercial Bank of Syria and Syria International Islamic Bank, in addition to the Central Bank of Syria, and lobbying other members of the international community to do the same, we have hampered the regime’s ability to continue to finance its repression of the Syrian people. Another significant source of revenue and foreign currency came from tourism, which has dried up since the violence started almost two years ago. More broadly, the real GDP declined approximately 19 percent in 2012, and the official rate of the Syrian pound has depreciated more than 50 percent against the U.S. dollar since January 2011, though the official rate probably understates the rate of depreciation on the black market.

Treasury has also engaged directly with the governments and private sectors of countries that border Syria, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey, which are particularly vulnerable to attempts by the Syrian government to evade U.S. and international sanctions. Treasury has consistently warned private financial institutions in this region of the risks of dealing with the Assad regime and called upon them to refrain from providing financial services to the Syrian government. In particular, given the regional prominence of Lebanon’s financial sector and close historic ties between Syria and Lebanon, Treasury focused on maintaining an ongoing dialogue with Lebanese authorities and representatives of the Lebanese private sector to underscore the importance of vigilance with respect to Syria.

The U.S. and our partners have employed a variety of authorities to deprive the Assad regime of revenue, but absent a UN Security Council Resolution that imposes global sanctions on Syria, gaps still exist. The apparent willingness of states like Iran, and others to provide financial, shipping or other services to the regime undermines the efforts of the rest of the international community to bring about an end to the violence and hasten a democratic transition. The Administration has pressed relevant governments and companies to cease financial and other support to the Assad regime and work with the international community to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, and will continue to do so, though our views on and approach to resolving this conflict still diverge.

In spite of the several allegations of Syria threatening its neighbors and sponsoring terrorism, among the many regional countries and groups listed, Israel is not mentioned once. Several pages of the report are dedicated to a regional power, Syria, whose actions have undermined Israel, while only a paragraph or two at the end are dedicated to an organization, AQI, whose affiliates have not only threatened, but killed thousands of Americans. But leftists like Chomsky would claim that America only acts in this case out of its own interest.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 13 2013 1:18 utc | 43

Of course, even the sanctions that Obama has put in place have not been enough to satisfy Zionist Hawks in congress. Last month, Senators Rubio and Casey offered legislation to strengthen sanctions further. But even that bill did not go as far as FDD-approved legislation offered earlier by the author of SANA, Elliot Engel (who then accompanied Obama along with Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Airforce One to Israel):

In a foreign policy address last month, Rubio called for sending ammunition to the rebels battling Bashar Assad, but Tuesday's bill falls short of that, calling instead for nonlethal aid, such as helmets and radio communications equipment. ... The legislation is far more cautious than a new bill from House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), which calls for $150 million in security assistance to vetted rebels, including weapons.

Casey did not rule out eventually sending weapons to the rebels. He said his bill creates a vetting process, which could eventually be used to help transfer arms.

“Down the road,” he said, “we may make another determination.”

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 13 2013 1:53 utc | 44

we'll have murder's on the President's say-so.
Who will be the first to associate the murderous US president with school and mall massacres by US citizens, because he is setting a bad example?
I will.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 13 2013 2:18 utc | 45

Of course sanctions on Iran and Syria are also sanctions on their trading partners.

The EU previously accounted for more than 90 percent of Syria’s crude exports. Thus the EU actions blocking the purchase of Syrian-origin petroleum products and banning new investment in the Syrian petroleum industry have had a massive impact on the regime’s revenue stream.

Also EU's revenue stream, which is part of the reason that the EU is on the financial sick-bed.

One prime example, in the case of Iran. is Peugeot which (partly owned by GM which is partly owned by US taxpayers) was forced out of Iran, and then had to lay off a bunch or workers.
And this just in:

PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG)’s credit rating was cut to four levels below investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, which said Europe’s car-market contraction puts the auto manufacturer’s plans to restore cash flow at risk.

The long-term rating on Peugeot’s debt was lowered by one step to B1 from Ba3, Falk Frey, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Moody’s, said in a statement today. The outlook is stable, indicating the debt won’t be reduced again soon.

And so on, with many companies big and small, sanction victims.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 13 2013 2:28 utc | 46

The State Dept. spokesman made it clear yet again that the US is after regime change and not a settlement, and that the Syrian president needs to make that "calculation" to abdicate.

MR. VENTRELL: Let me be very clear, and the Secretary’s been clear. This is about changing Assad’s calculation. And he hasn’t made the right decision yet to step aside, but his regime will come to an end, and we’re very much focused on assisting the opposition in changing his calculation. And so the right calculation is the Geneva framework, which would allow for mutual consent for a new executive authority in which Assad steps aside and we can preserve some elements of the state.

Preserve some elements of the state? Which elements would that be, with no leader, no cabinet and no security elements?

The problem of course with this pipe-dream is that there is no organized alternative to President Assad's government. What we have is a series of meetings (next one April 20) highlighting nothing but disorganization and confusion outside Syria, and jihadist terrorism inside Syria, mostly promoted by -- Qatar! The US has had this same stupid position for two years -- when will they get it?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 13 2013 3:21 utc | 47

@43 - To me it is problematic to compare actions taken to defeat AQI, an organization of thousands, with the methods used to attack Syria, a nation of 20 millions. On paper (and that's a big caveat), the US can has no limits in what it does to take on AQI, but attacking Syria, a UN member state, requires laws to be passed (on paper, at least).

You seem to be saying that if "leftists like Chomsky" were correct in their predictions and the US simply followed its own interests, then we would see the US side with Syria against its real enemy, the AQI. That ignores what seems clear to a leftist like me, that Syria is the main enemy of the US and the West because it is a real independent nation, bolstered by and bolstering other independent nations and movements, like Iran and Hezzbolah.

AQI is a sideshow like the early fascists in the 1920s. Just a loose, transient organization to be used to whatever means it can be used for, and then easily disposed of when no longer needed (that, at least, is how their masters see these Frankenstein monters until, like the Nazis in the 1930s and Al Qaeda in 2001, they get out of control).

You seem to be saying that the US is, against its own interests, siding with the AQI in attacking Syria because of zionists in the US congress are pushing that agenda against the US own interests. But if Israel's interest was to use the US to destroy Syria, even if it meant somehow forcing the US against its own interest to side with the AQI, then why is even the most extreme anti-Assad (and pro-Israel) member of Congress still insisting on "vetting" the rebels ("Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), which calls for $150 million in security assistance to vetted rebels") to keep weapons out of the hands of groups like Al Nusrah and AQI? Put this in contrast with countries like France and the UK who could give a flying fuck about AQI and want to destroy Syria by any means possible to get their old empires back. As far as I can determine (and I could have missed it, admittedly) from reading about the EU foreign ministers meeting in Dublin, When France and the UK proposed lifting the weapons ban it didn't talk about "vetting" anyone.

Is the United States controlled by Israel, or is Israel controlled by the United States? You may as well try to figure out who wears the pants in the Hezbollah-Iran-Syria relationship. I think the back-and-forth above shows that they are allies, committed to supporting each other so that they can both meet their ends in the region. Israel gets more out of the deal of course - is that because they control the US, or is it just because the US is so huge that a small move by it can have huge impact on the status of a small country like Israel. But the point of the comment seems to me to be: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I don't know that it matters. What matters to me is that both countries do their damndest to oppress the majorities in the region and thwart human rights and democracy, and they threaten unimaginable terror, and engage in torture and apartheid like you and I change clothes. Abroad and at home they use organizations like AQI to destroy democracy, cause terror, and keep down the working populations of countries across the world. But that's the leftist in me talking.

Posted by: guest | Apr 13 2013 3:38 utc | 48

The leftist in you should realize that America has no interests in creating chaoa in Syria. The want pipelines and trade. How can they conduct business if the entire mid east is up in flames?

Only Israel benefits

Posted by: kenny | Apr 13 2013 11:16 utc | 49

49) business does not mind what the business is about ... on private military companies - privatizing the new world order

Wall Street has noticed the booming business of both foreign and domestic PMCs. Security companies with publicly traded stocks reportedly increased in value at twice the rate of the Dow Jones industrial average in the go-go 1990s. Revenue from the global international security market was projected to rise from $55.6 billion in 1990 to $202 billion in 2010, an estimate that has risen sharply since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. The stock of guard providers Wackenhut Corp. rose 26 percent between Sept. 10 and 17, while that of Armor Holdings Inc., which provides a wealth of products and services for the military and law enforcement, traded at 31 times its 2002 projected value. Fortune magazine named Armor Holdings, a Florida-based conglomerate, one of "America's 100 Fastest Growing Companies" in 1999. The company specializes in security products and services with myriad subsidiaries involved in everything from bulletproof vests and fingerprinting powder to computer security systems and landmine reduction services.

Like the defense industry generally, the trend among PMCs has been toward mergers, acquisitions, and consolidation. In August 2001, Armor Holdings acquired O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt Armoring Company, the world's largest armored transport provider, boosting its 2001 earnings to $292 million. L-3 Communications, which has nearly $2 billion in annual revenue, was formed in April 1997 with the purchase of business units that were spun off after Loral Corporation and Lockheed Martin merged in 1996. L-3 Communications bought Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), which consults for and trains armed forces around the world, in July 2000.

As the industry continues its rapid growth, foreign governments are trying to figure out how — or if — to regulate it, thereby deterring PMCs from becoming vehicles for clandestine foreign policy, arms trafficking, or simply waste and mismanagement. The United States and South Africa are the only countries that exercise some regulatory oversight of domestic PMCs; other governments have acknowledged the need for the services PMCs offer, but have yet to develop a structure to oversee them.

In early 2002, the British government's Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a report titled "Private Military Companies: Options for Regulation." The report argued that PMCs could actually aid in low-intensity conflicts and proposed regulating them as soon as possible rather than leaving them to operate unchecked. The British press, however, had a field day with the notion that "mercenaries" would take the place of blue-helmeted U.N. soldiers, and a public outcry ensued. The report also pointed to the United States as the only place in the world where PMCs have become "major military corporations," effectively licensed for over two decades "without apparently giving rise to major problems."

Posted by: somebody | Apr 13 2013 12:42 utc | 50

"The leftist in you should realize that America has no interests in creating chaoa in Syria. The want pipelines and trade. How can they conduct business if the entire mid east is up in flames?"

Of course "America" has no interests in chaos in Syria. The American people would be fine with dealing with Syria as an equal, but the people who run America cannot accept that. "Conduct business" is not what these people do. The run rackets enforced with violence. It's not a simple matter dealing with Syria to the benefit of both countries. It's about putting Syria under the control of the US and Israel. The people who run America don't want a pipeline in Syria that they don't control. Its the elite in the US and Israel that want to destroy Syria THEN have trade with all the benefits flowing to them.

It doesn't make any sense to talk about "America". Were dealing with discreet groups of human beings all with a wide variety of interests. 99.9% of America has no interest in chaos in Syria and probably couldn't find it on the map. But the elites of America have a great interest in turning Syria into a puppet state, the better to destroy Hezbollah and Iran.

You are right that America doesn't want to see the Middle East in flames - that's why it has not attacked Iran, and have made sure Israel hasn't either. There is some daylight - if only a cigarette paper sanded on both sides - between the Israeli and the US position.

You have to distinguish between the classes operating inside of a country when discussing it's motives - of course that's a "leftist" concept. To try and talk about "America's interests" or "Israeli interests" or is impossible. 99.9% of the people in the world would want a world of fair trade, peace, and productivity. It's the psychopaths in charge that prevent it though.

Posted by: guest | Apr 13 2013 16:25 utc | 51

"It's the psychopaths in charge that prevent it though."

Apparently those guys and gals can be "cured" of their Psychopathic Tendencies with little more than a stern talking to

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 13 2013 16:41 utc | 52

@52 Or a bullet.

Posted by: guest | Apr 13 2013 18:05 utc | 53

Don Bacon @ 34 --Dang, that Bashar Assad is so amazingly powerful, MAKING the US act against its own interests (or so the US says) in supporting Salafists and Jihadists and Al Quaeda just to go after that awful Syrian government!!


Posted by: jawbone | Apr 13 2013 18:58 utc | 54

Just listened to the 41 minutes of Chompsky linked to at #24.

And, as several above have noted, the US is seemingly ignoring its self-interest in going after Syria. But it isn't, because underlying what Chompsky refers to as the Grand Area plan, put in place before there was an Israel (but it's possible Israel was part of the overall plan...?), is what Chompsky refers to as the US's Mafia approach, where the Godfather, the US, CANNOT be seen to allow any of the nations within its claimed sphere of influence, no matter how small, to have "successful defiance" of the US.

Hence, regarding Cuba, the US has expended enormous effort and great cost to ensure it does not allow business interests to work with Cuba. This goes against the basic tenet that corporations are behind calling the shots and allowed to do what they want to do, but, it's viewed as necessary to prevent other nations from thinking they too could "successfully defy" the US. It's behind small plane accidents and many coups against more democratically minded leaders.

Concerning Iran, the US is willing to allow its European allies' businesses to downgrade and possibly fail to try to bring down a government which doesn't kowtow to the US. It was willing to take on an illegal and costly war against Saddam Hussein to do the same. Libya, seemingly, was less costly, but the ongoing effects of that adventure are not yet known.

Thus the many actions taken by the US against Hugo Chavez. It will be interesting to see how soon actions are taken against his chosen successor, if, as seems quite likely, he wins.

Resources belong to the the US and its allies' corporations; they just happen to have a foreign location. Those who have the resources must realize they have to be made available to the US and its allies' corporate interests, on their terms. Or pay the price. Again, small plane accidents, coups, revolts supplied by the US and its allies.

As others have noted, going after Syria is part of the march to Tehran.

Oh, and for those of living here in the US, our resources are regarded the same way. NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific treaties are put in place to undermine laws passed in the 20th Century to protect the environment. They are now considered to be in the way of corporate progress and profits.

Obama's attitude toward resources as needing to be rightfully made available to the corporate interests will soonagain affect our quality of life. It's why Obama cannot take strong action against global warming. Why he will make sure the tar sands pipeline is OK'd. (Also, why laws were written to exclude tar sand oils from being covered by environmental laws written to protect localities from oil spills. Just learned that from the Arkansas tar sands spill. Where, as with BP's Gulf spill, there is a no-fly and no-reporters zone enforced at the order of Exxon=Moblie.)

We the people may live here, we may temporarily own land here, but we do not own the government or the ability to really affect its laws. At least not as we're acting toward our current government and our elected officials.

And the Constitution seems to have become a buffet where officials choose which parts to ignore and which to utilize for their masters' benefit. The justice system is now more and more clearly bifurcated into the system for the Powers That Be and those in their favor among the lower economic quintiles and the rest of us. Too Big and Too Rich To Be Prosecuted or Jailed is not where most of us find outselves,nor do we have such protectors.

Obama is a Neolib Corporatist running dog lackey, doing what he was hired to do. In foreign affairs and domestic.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 13 2013 21:42 utc | 55


I AM saying that attacking Syria is not in America's interest and that our country would not be pursuing its present path if it were not for the influence of the Israel Lobby on our politicians and on our media. Some elites in certain sectors of our economy have profited by aligning themselves with the Zionist agenda, other elites -- in business, academia, media, and politics -- have not only not profited from neocon/neolib wars of choice, but have suffered for opposing them.

Chomsky's model is far too simplistic (and there are many leftists who disagree with him). To talk about the issue as though it is an insoluably tangled chicken and the egg proposition is to deflect from the issue at hand. Even though America has centuries of racist and imperialist history, it has come to its "special friendship" with Israel, not because of its own interests, but because of the role of Zionists in America over the past century.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 13 2013 22:42 utc | 56

Rusty Pipes: You're wrong. The notion that the Israel Lobby controls EVERYTHING in US foreign policy is just wrong.

What we have is a confluence of special interests: the military-industrial complex profits from US wars; the oil companies profit from US wars; the banks that finance these entities profit from US wars; Israel profits from US wars; the neocons profit from US wars; the politicians that all these entities bribe to start US wars profit from US wars.

There is no such thing as some overarching "Zionist Conspiracy" ruling the world. Certainly you will find Zionists involved in many of the above factions in the US. That doesn't mean the "Protocols" have suddenly become all-encompassing.

How you can consider Chomsky's model as "simplistic" when it clearly covers the self-interest and desire for power by every state in history is beyond me. The fact that certain elite factions in the US are not as powerful as others does not justify ascribing everything the US does in foreign policy terms as based on the Israel Lobby.

The "pivot" to Asia and the ensuing efforts to ratchet up tensions with North Korea have ZERO to do with Israel and much to do with the MIC and with the US desire to "contain" China for the benefit of the rest of the rich elites. The fact that the Israel Lobby has more influence on the US Middle East policy than certain other elites fits in with Chomsky's views rather than refutes them.

Bottom line: The world is not based on one conspiracy. It's based on multiple competing conspiracies from the lowest level to the highest. Just about everyone is supportive of one conspiracy or another. Believing that there is only one conspiracy is to be part of the conspiracy of ignorance.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Apr 13 2013 23:48 utc | 57

Listening to this now. Should provide some insight.

Noam Chomsky and Omar Baddar Debate the Israel Lobby:

Posted by: guest | Apr 14 2013 0:36 utc | 58

Israel has great influence, and the US has great pretensions for total world control and financial profit. What's the relative effect of these two factors on Syria? Opinions differ. (It would be a boring world if they didn't.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 14 2013 0:40 utc | 59


America's foreign policy is global in scale, influenced by many factors. My comments only have been referring to America's foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East (although it does have repercussions elsewhere). Mearsheimer and Walt present a comprehensive analysis for the influence of the Israel Lobby in their book, as well as its contribution to our war on Iraq (as well as subsequent Clean Break initiated follies). Their chapter on Syria is particularly illuminating even six years after the book's publication. PNAC had a hit list of seven countries: five down, only Iran and Syria to go.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 14 2013 1:19 utc | 60

@Pipes See, you say Zionist influence like it is some sudden foreign arrival that can be seen to be separate from the "real" part of America. I don't see it like that. Zionism is woven into the American fabric. There are Christian zionists. If there was no Israel, you'd likely still have fundamentalist Christians fighting with Muslims over Jerusalem, on some level, just because of some nonsense in the Bible.

And of course you have the Jewish zionists. Well, they've made themselves a part of American ruling class. They may want to attack Syria. The problem isn't who they want to attack, but the fact that we have a small class of people sitting on top who are so powerful that they can put into motion an attack on a foreign country no matter who it is. If it wasn't zionists sitting on top of the pile deciding to attack Syria, would it be better if you have some WASPs deciding to attack Honduras?

People like can blame Israel all they want for Iraq, and yes, a whole slew of Jewish Zionists worked out the rationale for it, but Geogre Bush and Dick Cheney had to say "yes" on that one, and a whole bunch of other non-jews carried it out without a revolt (And I caught a lot of shit from some commentators here for pointing out). But it juist isn't true that there is this one small class of Israel firsters has complete control over US policy, to the point where they, on their own, could do something that would put the rest of us in mortal danger. If it came to that point that one small group controlled the whole country and put the rest in danger they're be a revolution. The fact is they can carry on because they have the support of the rest of the ruling class for whatever reason (money, pride, whatever).

I'm just repeating myself here, but what I see you saying is "If there was just some way to get rid of this one group, then we could have our peace and pursue our interests" well I guess you could, but would those interests be any more righteous, more peaceful than the ones being followed now? Would the ruling class excising one group out of its whole be more righteous than Stalin's purges? I think all this is moot because if it wasn't zionism and Israel, it would be some other war, some other crime, because you still have a country run by rich creeps who use violence to sustain their wealth.

The way to get rid of zionism isn't to get rid of Jews. The way to get rid of zionism is to get rid of crony capitalism and militarist aggression and the world's ruling class no matter what group they belong too, and have some real democracy - political and economic.

Posted by: guest | Apr 14 2013 1:34 utc | 61

And Chomsky's not infallible, no one is saying that. I just happen to think he provides extremely clear thinking about more important subjects than I have ever heard from a single person.

Posted by: guest | Apr 14 2013 1:45 utc | 62

Here is Chomsky taking a fair amount of heat, both on the real radio program and through some YouTube editing:

Posted by: guest | Apr 14 2013 1:55 utc | 63

are people here aware that not so long ago Chompski actually described himself as a zionist?

Posted by: yah . . .But | Apr 14 2013 15:05 utc | 64

"Shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous." -- Thoreau

Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians -- Noam Chomsky

First published in 1983, Fateful Triangle is a comprehensive indictment of what Noam Chomsky calls the "disgraceful and extremely dangerous" policy the United States has enacted towards Israel, particularly with regard to Israel's actions concerning the Palestinians. Supporters of Israel must willfully overlook or deny that nation's long history of human rights violations and military aggression, Chomsky writes, and they will continue to do so as long as Israel is strategically useful towards "the U.S. aim of eliminating possible threats, largely indigenous, to American domination of the Middle East region." In the course of elaborating his argument, Chomsky cuts through the myths and distortions that appear in mainstream media accounts; the damning facts that he so systematically assembles portray a government more brutally and overtly racist, perhaps, than even apartheid-era South Africa. Three new chapters, drawing upon material from Z magazine and other publications, incorporate such developments as the Palestinian uprising, Israel's war on Lebanon, and the ongoing "peace process."
From Library Journal
"A devastating collection of charges aimed at Israeli and American policies that affect the Palestinian Arabs negatively," said LJ's reviewer of this thesis on Middle East politics. With several additional chapters, a new preface, and a new foreword by Edward Said, Chomsky brings the story up-to-date. With the political situation in the Middle East just as hot now, this is bound to be an important volume.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 14 2013 15:22 utc | 65

Once upon a time Chompski was considered by many to be the most important spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. It was a position he attained largely on the basis of his writings and activism in opposing the Vietnam War and US intervention in Central America in which, unlike the case with Israel, he had no personal vested interest.

That Chomsky has maintained that position despite the presence in the US of a number of distinguished Palestinian professors, among them the late Edward Said, who were and are more knowledgeable about the subject and could speak from personal experience that does not include prior service as “a Zionist youth leader”—Chomsky’s background– is a reflection of the political culture of the American Left which was and remains substantially if not predominantly Jewish, particularly in its leadership positions.

Why does Noam Chomsky oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel?

Why does he think Palestinians should not talk about justice and redress for their ethnic cleansing from their homeland in 1948?

Why does Chomsky dismiss any talk about the influence of the Israel lobby?

Jeff Blankfort – Chomsky and Palestine: Asset or Liability? (Liability imo)

From PULSE Media: In a recent interview renowned linguist Noam Chomsky called the BDS campaign ‘hypocritical’. Jeffrey Blankfort, who is the author of an earlier important critique of Chomsky’s position on Palestine, responds:

. . . . Or are we seeing something else here on the part of both Prof. Chomsky and JVP with their competing campaign, namely, damage control on Israel’s behalf?

One might certainly draw that conclusion from comments Chomsky has made over the past several years and most recently in interviews with Israeli television -

. . . . .That same background may also explain his resistance to acknowledging the very obvious power of the pro-Israel lobby over US Middle East policy which he, like many others who share a similar history, interpret as “blaming the Jews,” a most taboo subject.

It is, without a doubt, far more comfortable for him and his followers to continue insisting that US support for Israel is based on it being a “strategic asset” for the United States even when an increasing number of mainstream observers who are not linked to AIPAC or the Zionist establishment have judged it to be a liability.

Should not Chomsky himself, on the basis of his own statements, be judged as to whether he is an asset or a liability for the Palestinian cause? If they have not already done so, serious supporters of that cause, including Palestinians, need to ask themselves that question.

Posted by: yah . . .But | Apr 14 2013 15:53 utc | 66

Chompski's replies to Alison Weir's quite reasonable questions regarding his virulently Anti-BDS stance were frankly a little bizarre

In the interview with Alison Weir, Chomsky not only repeatedly attacks advocates of an Israeli boycott as being hypocritical, he accuses them of doing damage to the Palestinian cause.

“What I have opposed,” says Chomsky, “is BDS proposals that harm Palestinians. If we are serious about BDS or any other tactic, we want to ask what the consequences are for the victims. We have to distinguish always in tactical judgments between what you might call ‘feel good’ tactics and ‘do good’ tactics. There are tactics that may make people feel good in doing something, but maybe they harm the victims.”

Pushed on the subject by Weir, he repeats that a boycott of Israel is “harmful to Palestinians and the reason is harmful is very obvious.” And what is obvious about it, Chomsky tells us in the very next sentence. “It is so hypocritical that it discredits the whole effort. I mean,” he says, “why boycott Israel and not boycott the United States? The US has a much worse record.”

When reminded by Weir that “Palestinian civil society issued a call, signed by dozens of diverse organizations calling for a boycott of Israel,” Chomsky was dismissive and condescending.

“There are groups who call themselves Palestinian civil society who are calling for a boycott,” he responds, “and I think they are making a mistake and I’ve explained why. I’m not going to take, adopt positions which have already been and will continue to be quite harmful to Palestinians.”

“If you want to, then do it,” Chomsky adds, upbraiding Weir and by implication, the Palestinian people themselves, “but it’s clear why the call for a boycott [of Israel] has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be.”

“The reason,” he repeated, “is very simple. It’s so utterly hypocritical that it’s basically a gift to the hardliners. They can say, ‘Look, you’re calling for a boycott of Israel, but you’re not calling for a boycott of the United States which has a much worse record, in fact, it’s even responsible for most of Israel’s crimes. (My emphasis)

“So therefore, if your position,” and from his tone of voice he is clearly jabbing a verbal finger at Weir, “is that hypocritical, how can we even take you seriously? That’s like giving a gift to the hard-line elements.

One might be forgiven for thinking that when Chomsky says “we” and refers to “hard-line elements” he is speaking of himself. He seems to confirm that later when, continuing his attack, he tells Weir:

“I find your commitment to harming Palestinians surprising. It is quite obvious why a call for a boycott of Israel is a gift to AIPAC. It’s a gift because they can point out that it is utterly hypocritical” and again, like a well rehearsed mantra he repeats, “We are not boycotting the United States, for example, which has a much worse record and is responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior.”

“I can give you cases if you want [but he doesn’t offer any] where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians, and he repeats once again that Weir’s “support for the efforts which are basically gifts to the hardliners…”

Let’s stop a moment before going on and ask ourselves some questions about what Chomsky has been saying.

The contempt emanating from Chompski towards Weir, for the mere act of seeking explanations, is completely unwarranted - obviously she touched a nerve.

Posted by: yah . . .But | Apr 14 2013 16:03 utc | 67

@yB #66
Why does Chomsky dismiss any talk about the influence of the Israel lobby?

Chomsky hasn't dismissed it, which you would know if you did three seconds of research beyond quoting a bunch of questions from Jeff Blankfort. --Who?
But you eschew the truth, obviously.

The Israel Lobby? -- Mar 28, 2006
By Noam Chomsky

When we do investigate, we find that US policies in the ME are quite similar to those pursued elsewhere in the world, and have been a remarkable success, in the face of many difficulties: 60 years is a long time for planning success. It's true that Bush II has weakened the US position, not only in the ME, but that's an entirely separate matter.

In other words Chomsky points out, correctly, that US imperialism in the ME-Palestine isn't much different than it has been in Central America, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, Africa and many other places.

That's a valid argument, in my estimation.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 14 2013 16:16 utc | 68

@ yB #67
The contempt emanating from Chompski towards Weir, for the mere act of seeking explanations, is completely unwarranted - obviously she touched a nerve.

"Alison Weir is a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British royalty. Her works on the Tudor period have made her a best-selling author. "

Are you trained and certified in the psychology of responding to authors of British history books?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 14 2013 16:24 utc | 69

"Jeff Blankfort. --Who?"

Jeff Blankfort.

Jeez, cantcha read?

"That's a valid argument, in my estimation."

Good fer you - ain't no one tellin ya ya can't have yer own estimation, Donny. Even if it's wrong, yer still entitled to have it, I say.

Got mine too, though. And it took a tad more than 3 seconds to come up with too.

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 14 2013 16:27 utc | 70

oh and Don, if you had spent more than 3 seconds researching this, you would already know who Jeff Blankfort was.

Of course that might spoil the little "argument from authority" stance you're currently adopting, though.

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 14 2013 16:29 utc | 71

Are you trained and certified in the psychology of responding to authors of British history books?

Am i supposed to take this seriously? Especially after you rather petulantly (in my estimation Don) commented earlier " . . if you did three seconds of research . . ."

Now, Don: IF YOU had spent more than more than a mere 3 seconds actually researching rather than merely copying and pasting the first thing you found via Google after typing "Alison Weir" into a Google search-box YOU would know that the Alison Weir I referred to is the person that runs the website If Americans"

To my knowledge she is not now, nor has she ever been "a British writer of history books, and latterly historical novels, mostly in the form of biographies about British royalty"

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 14 2013 16:37 utc | 72

"are people here aware that not so long ago Chompski actually described himself as a zionist?"

This is complete BS, I'm sorry. If by "long ago" you mean as a teenager, and by "Zionist" you mean a supporter of a single, bi-national state with democratic rights for both all citizens (and most certainly not a "Jewish" state ) then okay, you're right.

Posted by: guest | Apr 15 2013 4:40 utc | 73

No need to be a dick, yah.

I think it's clear why Blankfort got the "Who", and that's because he seems to generally be interviewed for the simple reason that he is an opponent of Professor Chomsky. Which isn't to say that's not a valid reason for interviewing him, just that he may have a personal interest in creating friction for the sake of generating publicity as opposed to actually having substantive disagreements.

I'm not an expert about much of anything, but from what I've listened to Blankfort's criticism of Chomsky it seems to be the Chomsky is somehow downplaying the Palestinians cause simply because he is Jewish, and he is putting ethnic loyalty ahead of combating the injustices Israel inflicts on the Palestinians. This just seems to me to be not be true.

I don't see any difference in behavior of Prof. Chomsky regarding the Palestinians, and his behavior when dealing with any other issue, like Haiti or Viet Nam. JB seems to attack Chomsky over what actions he believes should be taken to combat the injustices, and because Chomsky doesn't agree with him on specific methods that JB and others agree with, that this is somehow evidence of Chomsky's disingenuousness.

I think this is nonsense. Chomsky's role is not as a director of the BDS movement. Chomsky is a scholar and a speaker, and he has analyzed and spoken about the issue of Palestine as much, if not more than, the other issues he has studied.

To criticize him for not being at the forefront of the BDS movement is like chastising your dinner fork (which did a hell of a job on helping you eat your salad) for its failure in helping you eat soup. It's not what Chomsky does. But, IMHO, he has been no less conscientious about analyzing the problems of the Palestinians than he has been on all the other vital issue facing the world today.

As for his not wanting to debate Blankfort - I don't know if that is true or not. But what I do know is that I'd be a little annoyed at having to debate a guy who has, to some degree at least, made a career of criticizing me.

Posted by: guest | Apr 15 2013 5:05 utc | 74

"are people here aware that not so long ago Chompski actually described himself as a zionist?"

This issue is taken on right within the opening minutes of this interview (I provided this above as well).

Posted by: guest | Apr 15 2013 5:07 utc | 75

Chomsky and his trolls have 2 things in common:
Arrogance & Insecurity.

Posted by: kenny | Apr 15 2013 14:26 utc | 76

Who is Jeffrey Blankfort:

Jeff Blankfort is a radio program producer with KZYX in Mendocino. He is a journalist and Jewish-American and has been a pro-Palestinian human rights activist since 1970. He was formerly the editor of the Middle East Labor Bulletin and co-founder of the Labor Committee of the Middle East. He was also a founding member of the November 29 Coalition on Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Committee. He won a settlement from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in February 2002 for its vast illegal spying against him, as well as hundreds of other progressive social, political, labor and environmental organizations and thousands of individuals (including anti-Apartheid groups/activists).

Blankfort's articles have appeared in CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Mondoweiss, Pulse Media, Left Curve and the Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.[1]

Who is Alison Weir? Founder of If Americans Knew and President of the Council for the National Interest, she also blogs:

Analysis on Israel, Palestine, and the American connection. I am not the British historian. Please stop threatening her.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 15 2013 21:51 utc | 77

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who also supported a "constructive engagement approach", directly addressed issue of boycotting South Africa in an interview with CBS television. Her argument will seem familiar to anti-BDS arguments today:

I think a policy of sanctions would harm the very people in South Africa you are trying to help...I agree with a policy of trying to influence South Africa by other means. The present Government is moving forward in the direction we wish them to go, faster than any other. Sanctions will harm, not help.

Jewish ex-Zionist Youth Leader US Professor Noam Chomsky
““If you want to, then do it,” Chomsky adds, upbraiding Weir and by implication, the Palestinian people themselves, “but it’s clear why the call for a boycott [of Israel] has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be.” . . .

. . . "I can give you cases if you want [but he doesn’t offer any] where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians, and he repeats once again that Weir’s “support for the efforts which are basically gifts to the hardliners…”

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 16 2013 15:31 utc | 78

A few years ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted the absurdity of opposing boycotts under the banner of solidarity with the victims of apartheid.

Countless universities around the world, which have since honored him with honorary degrees, had previously punished their own faculty members for anti-Apartheid political activities and

"refused to divest from South Africa because 'it will hurt the blacks' (investing in apartheid South Africa was not seen as a political act; divesting was)," . . . .
. . . ."Let this inconsistency please not be the case with support for the Palestinians in their struggle against occupation,"
Tutu wrote in South Africa's Times.

In her staunch opposition to joining the boycott campaign, Thatcher argued against effectively punishing the culprits of severe discrimination and oppression for fear that such actions would backfire and stem chances for positive change.

In late 1977, for example, Thatcher declared,

"In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South African."

Jewish ex-Zionist Youth Leader US Professor Noam Chomsky

““If you want to, then do it,” Chomsky adds, upbraiding Weir and by implication, the Palestinian people themselves, “but it’s clear why the call for a boycott [of Israel] has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be.” . . .

. . . "I can give you cases if you want [but he doesn’t offer any] where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians, and he repeats once again that Weir’s “support for the efforts which are basically gifts to the hardliners…”

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 16 2013 15:39 utc | 79

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